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For the New Year

The last couple of years, I’ve taken to following the example of a few mindfulness teachers that I follow online, who come up with some guidance to offer for the upcoming year. I figured since we were entering 2018, I’d come up with 8 practice points to usher us into the new year (see pic above).

I’ve written in the past about how I’m not a big fan of making new year’s resolutions, but what I do like to do is come up with 1, 2, or 3 new ways of engaging with my mindfulness practice. My favorite one over this past year was to stay in the bathroom while brushing my teeth, instead of wandering around the house multi-tasking, with the toothbrush comically protruding from my mouth while I proceeded to do a wealth of other things that had no business being done while brushing one’s teeth. So I enacted a “stay put” clause, whenever I set to brushing. It took me a little while to develop the new habit, but I’m happy to report that it’s going splendidly :)

I’ve been mulling around possibilities for 2018 and what new mindfulness exercises I might add to my tool belt, but so far I haven’t landed on exactly what I’ll include in my daily/weekly routine. I’d like to have one I can enfold into driving, as that is often where I need the most practice in patience and understanding. I have a number of things I do already when behind the wheel, but I really appreciate developing fresh approaches and new mindfulness techniques, as it keeps my practice from growing stale and/or too routine. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, may the above list of 8 practice points be of service to you on the path of cultivating more joy, ease, and a true sense of connection.

To read the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.

 

 

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Daily Rituals

Benjamin Franklin’s ideal daily routine, from his autobiography

Given this schedule snippet, I think ol’ Ben Franklin and I could’ve been friends. Last night, my friend Jeff lent me a book he thought I’d enjoy, called Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work, by Mason Currey. The image above is pictured alongside the title page at the start of the book, and right away I thought to myself: This is gonna be a good read.

I read the intro and the first 15 pages this morning and was hooked. Over 160 of the greatest philosophers, writers, composers and artists are featured in this collection of Daily Rituals. And I could relate right away with the author’s musings in the intro, which I took as a good sign of things to come. He writes:

 

My underlying concerns in the book are issues that I struggle with in my own life: How do you do meaningful creative work while also earning a living? Is it better to devote wholly to a project or to set aside a small portion of each day? And when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for all you hope to accomplish, must you give things up (sleep, income, a clean house), or can you learn to condense activities, to do more in less time…More broadly, are comfort and creativity incompatible, or is the opposite true: Is finding a basic level of daily comfort a prerequisite for sustained creative work?

…The book’s title is Daily Rituals, but my focus in writing it was really people’s routines. The word connotes ordinariness and even a lack of thought; to follow a routine is to be on autopilot. But one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism.

And my favorite line from the intro:

A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

With the catalyst and accelerate of going to Deer Park Monastery every January for the past 4 years, to spend a few weeks on retreat, I’ve parlayed myself into something I’d been wanting for a long while: a consistent and diligent routine, primarily to help me develop a writing schedule that I could stick with. As someone on disability, who works a job-job just one day a week, I have a lot of unstructured time on my hands. But, as I am also someone who is highly organized and manages, plans, and hosts a wealth of different things, I perform optimally when I come up with a schedule to follow.

Every day I am balancing my passion for writing with my to-do list associated with being the director of a mindfulness community center, serving in my capacity as a spiritual leader to my cherished sangha, and being a grateful home-maker, helping to take care of my household and the people who reside within its humble walls. There’s also the delightful element of cultivating friendships, which is a great joy for me that I prioritize in my life. And last – but actually first in the priorities department – comes the relationship that I build and strengthen with my own self and my mindfulness practice. So, these are ALL part of my every day balance: writing, to-do list on the mindfulness center/sangha front, to-do list on the home front, staying in close contact with friends, and staying in close connection with myself. And in all sincerity, I do each of these things with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Each element nourishes me in different ways. AND, I actively practice to keep it that way. How we live is a matter of choice – it really is – and I choose to fuel up my joy and gratitude tanks on the daily.

While it doesn’t speak to everyone, of course, having daily rituals and a schedule works really well for me. Lately, I’ve been stepping into sharing about this side of myself more, which can be challenging, as there’s a tendency for others to either feel bad for not having such a regimented accounting of their own time or for them to be rather incredulous about the nature of how I craft my daily routine. What?! they’ll say, you get up every day at 5am?! That’s crazy! And then I’m all like: Is it? I mean, on some level I get that it’s not super common and comes as a surprise to hear, but on another level I’d rather not draw unnecessary attention to myself and have to field people’s shock-and-awe response.

But, as I’ve been working towards sharing more and more about myself, in regards to both creative and mundane matters – in the last year especially – this new read I’ve just started offers a wonderful writing prompt for me to embark upon. So this is me, embarking upon it.

I wrote this in my leather-bound journal early this morning:

Just as the sun needs to trade places with the moon in order to construct the most suitable conditions for life-dwelling, so too does my desire for solitude and stillness sit in balance with the nourishment and inspiration I richly receive from being in the direct and precious company of others. Like the in-breath and out-breath, I require both solo and collaborative time, in order to thrive.

 

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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Mindful Morning Saturday

I awoke just before 4:30am and turned on my Mighty Bright book light made in China, patents pending, and slid out from under a mismatched set of sheets, one fashioned from organic cotton made in India and the other I got from the Goodwill, who’s tag I was unable to locate while groping around in the dark trying not to disturb my sleeping husband.

After reciting my daily morning verse: Waking up, my smile greets a brand new day, I padded into the bathroom where I proceeded to use recycled toilet paper, glide on some Tom’s of Maine unscented deodorant, made in the USA, wash my face with 85% organic ingredient soap “made with care in Missoula, Montana,” and run a brush through my hair that I bought in Paris upon realizing that I had managed to hop across the pond without a detangling stick. A brush, I might add, that must’ve been made outside of China, due to its lack of stamped mention of a country of origin.

I then found myself in the kitchen turning on the electric tea kettle, made in China and sporting the words “Do not immerse in water” in five different languages engraved on the bottom, and readying my morning gunpowder green tea, which I order online and has Chinese writing emblazoned on the packaging. And I sip said tea slowly from my most favorite hand-crafted clay mug made by my friend Drew (see pic above), as I ease into the day.

And the day will proceed onward in this fashion – I will use and encounter an endless array of items and products, from both near and far flung places. My day-to-day activities will be due to an endless sea of people having created, fashioned, and made possible my way of living.

What most struck me this morning, as I was fine tuning my attention to my routine, was how much the presence of water factors into my day – and how often I take it for granted. In operation of the toilet, washing my face and hands, preparing tea, boiling eggs for breakfast, filling the cats water bowl, washing dishes, drinking, showering… Being able to turn a handle and have clean water dispensed is a miracle of convenience I don’t think enough about.

So, today, among other things, I celebrate water :)

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Freedom of Routine

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I used to think it would be terribly status quo to do the same thing day in and day out – some present day torture resulting in a robotic, sad life void of meaning and vigor.  But now, with aging eyes and dharmic direction, I see great freedom and joy in creating a daily rhythm, ordinary and relatively unchanging.  Of course, our motivation must be well applied and properly set (otherwise a routine can become dry and numbing).

I’ve been thinking about my own simple daily routines lately and how they offer me nourishment and support throughout the day.  My alarm is set to wake me up at 5:03am (yep, not 5:00, 5:03) Monday through Saturday (Sundays are my days to sleep in).  Oftentimes, however, I wake up before my alarm goes off.  After I get up I make some tea and drink slowly as I read by book light in the living room for 20-30 minutes (currently I am reading a book called Meeting Faith, Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun).   I then set a timer, sing the morning chant (you can give a listen to my recording here http://openway.org/content/morning-chant), and practice sitting meditation for 20 minutes in the quiet stillness of the darkened early morning.  I finish my sitting meditation with three prostrations to the earth, in which I offer a different gratitude with each one, followed by one final standing bow in which I say to myself:

“In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.”

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